The Healing Power of Presence and Touch – Family Reflection Video
"They laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged (Jesus) that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed." – Mark 6:56
A friend posted on Facebook that he was admitted to the hospital. Almost instantaneously, his post was followed by a long thread of sad-face emojis and promised prayers for healing. He acknowledged these messages sent by his friends by clicking "Like" on every well-meaning message. Later, he confided he felt sad that despite the long thread of messages, only a handful, maybe two or three, took the time or effort to call or drop by the hospital.
On another occasion, a dad shared with me that his daughter came home one day looking so forlorn. Apparently, she had had a rough day in school. Not knowing what else to do, he just opened his arms. She rushed into his embrace. No words. No explanations. No interrogation. Just a tight hug.
Despite the inroads in technology and communication, the healing power of presence and touch are irreplaceable and non-negotiable. Some are fearful that artificial intelligence and robots may soon replace humans in the workplace and homes. But while machines may be efficient and perform flawlessly, nothing can substitute for presence and the human touch. A simple gesture like a hug works well beyond clicking "Like" or posting an emoji on your friend's Facebook or Instagram pages.
The gospel often portrays Jesus as reaching out and touching the sick and the sinner. And also, people seeking to touch Jesus, just like in today's gospel. They beg Jesus even to let them touch the fringe of His cloak. This miracle of healing through touching echoes an earlier healing of the woman with the hemorrhage who could touch Jesus' clothes and immediately experience healing (Mark 5:25-29). Jesus, through touch, wants the sick person to know that they are remembered and especially loved by God. That they are not alone.
It is a common experience that words fall flat, but our sense of touch speaks volumes. Take the baby cuddled in the nest of his mother's arms. Take a nurse's soothing hand on our fevered brow. Take an encouraging pat on the back or a comforting hand on our shoulder.
Touch has a healing effect on people of any age. Think of reflexology, energy therapy, and so on. Jesus was a master of touch and continues His "practice" in the sacraments.
Think of the use of the laying on of hands in the early church and in the celebration of the sacraments today. In Confirmation, the bishop places his hands on the head of the candidates and prays for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The laying on of hands to the priesthood enables a person so ordained to act in persona Christi. In the sacrament of marriage, the couple holds their hands in loving affirmation, and in the anointing of the sick, the minister lays hands on the sick and prays. We see a touch, a touch of Christ present.
Let us remain not only in touch with God but also with all those around us.
Be present. Touch and heal.
- Father Boby's inspirational homily was recorded live this morning during Mass at the Father Peyton Center. Please view the video on our Facebook page. (You don't need a Facebook account to view.)
- To view Rosary prayer and Mass streaming live, please visit our Facebook page at 11:30 am EDT, Monday – Friday. Please invite your loved ones to join us too! (You don't need a Facebook account to view.)
About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.